Title: A Scanner Darkly
Author: Philip K. Dick
Production/Bibliographic Information (will vary by type of medium): WMA audiobook downloaded from OverDrive. Books on Tape; October 31, 2006; Length approximately 9:12:45 hours on 8 cds.
Read by Paul Giamatti.
Part of a Series: The title is not part of a series, but the audiobook was released to in conjunction with the motion picture, including a cover with the cast of the film. A graphic novel was also released to promote the film.
Book tie-in: Based on the book of the same name.
- Arctor, Bob (Fictional Character)
- Author Tract
- Barris, James (Fictional Character)
- Becoming the Mask
- Crowning Moment of Funny
- Mind Screw
- Mood Whiplash
- Narcotics Agents
- Paranoia Fuel
- Science Fiction
- Substance D
- Tear Jerker
- Through the Eyes of Madness
Plot Summary: Fred, or Bob Arctor, is an undercover narcotics agent who is addicted to Substance D, a drug that causes severe brain damage. Arctor must hide his identity from his employers and his druggie loved ones in a world where the rehab facilities are just as dangerous as those they claim to want to help. Discovering that he is the one under surveillance, Arctor loses his grip on reality and his identity, and slides into a hole of insanity and conspiracy, where the truth lies at the very heart of despair.
Appeal: Paul Giamatti delivers an excellent performance; he uses different voices and accents for the characters that perfectly capture their personalities. The audiobook explores the moral implications of drug abuse and the tragedy of its consequences on people who did not mean any harm in using drugs. The audiobook has a leisurely pace and multiple narrators. It’s set in a dystopia that is much like California in 1977, but with some science fiction technology. The jargon used in the novel is that of the druggie counterculture around the time it was written, and those words that the listener may not know can be understood in context. The tone changes multiple times, with comic and madcap giving way to paranoid and melancholy. Some of the characters are based on people who Dick actually knew, and he mentions them in his afterword.
Features: The audiobook includes music in the introduction, is completely unabridged, and features the dedication and afterword by Philip K. Dick, including a list of those loved ones who died or were seriously affected by drugs.
Prizes or Awards: Listen Up Award from Publishers Weekly; the novel won a British Science Fiction Award winner in 1978,
Similar Works: Suggested by Natalie Garner
- Released in conjunction with the film: A Scanner Darkly, 2006, directed by Richard Linklater, starring Keanu Reeves, Robert Downey Jr., Winona Ryder, and Woody Harrelson.
- William S. Burroughs, Naked Lunch, which is a darkly humorous series of vignettes about a drug addict who’s fleeing from narcotics agents and encounters several hallucinatory places and characters during his journey.
- Robert Anton Wilson, The Illuminatus Trilogy, 1st book is The Eye in the Pyramid, an hilarious and deeply disturbing journey into the world of conspiracy theories, this novel recalls the paranoia and madness of Substance D.
Reviewer’s Name: Natalie Garner
Form adapted from Fiction Annotation Form in Saricks, Joyce G. and Nancy Brown. Readers’ Advisory Service in the Public Library 2nd. Chicago: ALA, 1997.